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The world is spiraling out of control. We are not evolving, but de-evolving. Every day things become more vicious, more divisive, more hopeless.

Here’s where you’re expecting me to say, “Have hope! God is with us!” I am not going to say that.

I’m growing increasingly tired of hearing, “hope and pray that things will improve.” I’m not sure that’s enough. It feels to me as if God is pushing our buttons lately, with a very intentional agenda in mind: What will it take?

What will it take for you to call your senator? What will it take for us to understand that we are all human beings and need to take care of one another? What will it take to stop blaming and start working on solutions? What will it take for us to wake up?

It is all very well and good to hope and pray. In fact, prayer can be powerful action. But there is more to be done, and it starts with making our actions congruent with our beliefs. Do you claim to be a Christian yet don’t care about (or actively work against) the welfare of the poor, the immigrant, those standing on the margins (like the LGBTQ community)? You might want to re-evaluate. Do you hate liberals? Conservatives? Hating is not a Christian value. Spewing that hatred, whether online or at a “rally” is not a Christian activity.

Which is not to say that Christians have a corner on morality; we don’t. And part of God’s wake-up call to us is recognizing that we, in our diversity of faith traditions, are more alike than different, that Sharia law doesn’t hurt me any more than someone keeping kosher does — just follow your own beliefs and be considerate of others’ beliefs. Religion isn’t the enemy; it’s people who misconstrue and misinterpret religion, who forget that God is love — above all else.

I firmly believe that Jesus was a radical. He didn’t come to soothe anybody’s spirits; he came to shake things up. And that’s what God is doing now. God is shaking and shaking us, trying to make us declare exactly who and what we are and what we believe is right and just.

So…are you ready to stand up? If not, what will it take?

Faith isn’t easy but what worth having or doing is? merton

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Just wondering. Ladies, why did we decide painting our fingernails would be a thing? Why not our kneecaps? And why do we pluck our eyebrows, yet embellish our eyelashes with mascara? Why the eyelash favoritism? What, do eyelashes have a louder lobbying group? Payola going on in some back room? Hmmm?

We spend most of our youth wanting to be older. Boys can’t wait to shave. Girls can’t wait to put on make-up. Once we’re adults, we’re perpetually trying to look younger. What’s wrong with this picture?

When did we un-learn wonder? That feeling we had as children, looking with awe and astonishment at each petal on every flower.

One day my ex-husband’s daughter came to visit and saw a sponge on the counter. Just a toddler, she found this sponge to be the most amazing thing to behold. “This!” she exclaimed, surrounding it with her hands, leaning in to examine it. Eyes huge, she looked at me as if to say, are you seeing this too?!?

The adult in me was thinking, of all the mundane things to be amazed by, but the child in me understood. It’s an interesting texture, this sponge. It’s wet, but not really. It’s bouncy but it isn’t a ball. It holds water, until you press it, and then it spurts liquid into the sink. Really kind of a marvel, if you think about it.

Tapping into the wonder of childhood is something of a virtual fountain of youth.

I still feel wonder when I read a great line from a poem, like this one by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

Also, when I hear beautiful harmonies in this song from Alison Krauss and Union Station.

But I think it’s just as important to indulge in goofy fun to add quality of life to the day, like this video of NFL Bad Lip Reading on YouTube.

Maybe Your Second Childhood will become a thing, too. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the next internet sensation. It’s a Wonder-ful Life!

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Every year around this time, Google reports a surge in this search term: “Superb Owl Day.” No, it’s not a gathering of bird-watchers in the foliage. It happens around the weekend of that big ole football championship game. You know. The Super Bowl.

It’s just a misplaced space (now there’s a tongue-twister) that yields a result that’s way off-base (oh, that’s a tiny poem), but it’s something of a metaphor. Sometimes in life we know what we’re looking for, and even have all the ingredients, but we’re just not sure how to put it all together.

Like something’s missing. That space can feel like a void. If you think of all the things we yearn for, they’re big ticket items. True love. Mega-million jackpot. Job with an expense account. Maybe it isn’t the thing we’re looking for, but what we think it will bring to us.

Just as there are many different versions of the Bible, I like to look at life through my own personal filter of faith. I’ll give it a name too, to make it official. How about this: Light-hearted Upward Version, or “LUV.”

Maybe if we strike it rich, we won’t have to worry about how to make it through each month. We’re really looking for sustenance and certainty. Verily, I say unto you, this is another way of saying “Faith.” Book of Ruth (No Relation) 2:6a LUV By the way, 2:6 is just today’s date. Nothing deep. 🙂

Maybe if we find true love, we won’t have to eat alone at the diner counter anymore. We’re really looking for a sense of belonging and a support network. Brethren and Sistern (Cistern?) I say unto you, this can be found in “Fellowship.” BoR(NR) 2:6b LUV

Maybe if we get the perfect job, we won’t have to spend the whole day at the copier again. We’re really looking for a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction. Yea, though I travel through challenging times, I can accomplish this through “Outreach.” BoR(NR) 2:6c LUV

There are many ways to find the missing pieces in life, and often, they’re already around us. It might be just a matter of stretching out, and reaching up.

Have hope.  It is how all good things are accomplished.

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chuchill

5lrxnlhfzoy-paul-greenIt’s been said that public speaking is easier if you picture your audience naked. (Oh my! How did Hugh Jackman get into the audience? Crikey! 🙂 Or for the younger crowd, perhaps Ryan Gosling. Hey Girl.)

Writing a story recently, I wasn’t sure if it was a drama with comedic notes or a comedy with dramatic underpinnings. I couldn’t quite place my audience.

I decided it was a lot like life: a comedy with dramatic under…pants. The key is keeping it light and not airing the dirty laundry.

Everybody’s dealing with something just under the surface.

In times like these, it’s more important than ever to focus on the good things in life. I like to picture my audience smiling. That’s why most of my posts are about accentuating the positive.

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I like to grab that hook of hope and hang my hat on it. For me, it’s laughter. Finding the funny in everyday things.

That maniacal look in my cat’s eyes as he rolls on the rug as if he finally tracked down his mortal enemy. “Bathroom rug… at last we meet. In a dark corner at the crack of dawn. Prepare to meet thy doom!”

 

20170102_203052The Lyft driver who thought he was going to make my day when he gave me a free sample of…. wrinkle cream! Derived from snails, yet. Some in my sensible shoes might have been offended when given an old lady lotion, but I laughed out loud. “Snails? My word. Well, they’re not at all wrinkly, that’s true. More slimy.”

And for those around you who only seem to complain and kvetch? 

A friend of mine in HR once told me her policy: “If you’re coming to see me just to vent, I’ll give you five minutes. If you want to solve the problem, I’ve got all day.”

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“Commiserate” is a word that tells its own story: let’s come together to share our misery.

What’s the opposite of “commiserate”?

Prayer.

People of faith coming together to request that others be blessed.

It’s like a spiritual standing ovation. Now that’s a story with a happy ending!

Reading SueBE’s and Lori’s posts this week gave me a lot to think about.

If SueBE is in for a world of hurt, having only been to mass twice in her life, I’m really SOL (this being a prayer blog, that stands for “Shucks! Out of Luck”) as I can’t recall ever having gone to mass. Perhaps as a child, since I’m told I was baptized Catholic.

But I’ve always chafed against the idea of rules that don’t make sense to me. This makes me an iffy candidate for any religion, not to mention line-dancing and speed-dating. Come on. You want me to sit down, stand up, and hold hands with a stranger? Heck. Now I’m just dizzy!

The other day I watched a “fire-and-brimstone” preacher on t.v. and it reminded me why so many Americans skirt the periphery as I do, calling ourselves “spiritual but not religious.”

He spoke of the doomed Titanic voyage, saying there were two passenger categories: “Upper Class and Steerage.” But when the sugar hit the fan (as it were – still a prayer blog, mind) names were listed under two different categories: “Saved and Lost.” He nodded his head, pleased at the metaphor, pointed at the congregation and bellowed, “Some of you are going to Hell first class!”

And, smooches unto you, too, Reverend Cuddlebear!

My word. If that’s the gospel according to that church, well then, sniff, sniff, I think I’ve got a cold too. I’ll have to miss that service this week. And forever!

For Lori, SueBe and me, this blog is a sacred space. We’re spread across the map geographically and spiritually, yet somehow we end up in the same place.

I say, it’s all right to miss church once in awhile (or in my case, altogether!) because the altar is already set up in your heart. The pew is the armchair you’re sitting in. The church is wherever you are, and wherever you are, that’s where God is, too. See there, you’re all set for the evening worship service. Sit with me, have a warm cuppa, and let us pray.

I don’t yet have the strength to write about the election in a prayerful way…I’ll leave that to greater minds than mine. (That’s your cue, SueBE and Ruthie!) I can, however, write about this.

My dear friend Alice once told me that she’d spoken to her spiritual advisor about forgiveness. Alice couldn’t bring herself to forgive someone. Her advisor told her to pray for the desire to forgive. That advice seems wonderfully cogent right now.

I can’t be happy yet. I can’t say that everything’s okay, and let’s just hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” (which we actually used to sing at our parish in Buena Park in the ‘70s). But I want it to be. I want to feel peaceful and prayerful and hopeful again. But right now, the best I can do is to pray for the desire to move on. I don’t feel it yet. But maybe if I pray hard enough, I’ll want to feel it. And wanting to feel it is the first step toward feeling it.

This is not to say that I will not allow myself to be angry. Jesus was angry when he threw the money-changers out of the temple. If it’s okay for Jesus to be angry, then it’s okay for me to be angry. But there’s a time and a place for anger, and a time and a place for hope. (“Turn, turn, turn,” sing the Byrds.) I’m not ready to stand in that place yet — and that is my own problem and my own sin — but I’m going to pray that tomorrow I will want to. And maybe, just maybe, the day after that — I will stand there again.

To everyone out there who is hurting, for any reason whatsoever, I understand. God understands. God is, after all, the God of those on the margins, the God of all of us who struggle. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God. Today I need God desperately.

So desperately, that I am willing to open the door, just a crack, to hope. Or, at least, to the desire for it. In this case, maybe wishing will make it so.

Did you ever find yourself in a snit about little things that seem to accumulate?

I had medical appointments and procedures over the last couple of weeks (everything’s fine) but got behind on reading blog updates, emails, etc. My schedule was thrown off and getting out of my usual routine really got under my skin.

You look at the salt shaker on the counter and think, Why is this here? It belongs in the cabinet! Stupid, small things become monumental.

Why is it overcast today? Just to annoy me? You start to think that everyone is doing things just to get on your nerves.

It becomes an almost tangible roadblock that can lead to a kind of spiritual gridlock.

You start to think everything’s out of whack, when really, it’s just a matter of pruning. Taking stock of what’s most pressing, and tending to the roots.

This is what matters most in life: faith, family, friends. Praying, staying in a peaceful state of mind, taking care of yourself. The rest is really just logistics. 

We spend so much time making sure all our ducks are in a row that we forget to feed the ducks! Don’t neglect to do the very things that would smoothe out those edges:

  • Pat your pets
  • Look at the sunset
  • Re-read a favorite book
  • Listen to music
  • Relax in a comfy chair
  • Read uplifting passages from Psalms
  • Wear a comfy sweater, even if it has a hole in it

Don’t throw out the sweater because it’s got a little imperfection. Sew it up, if you know how, or just toss on a scarf. Who’s going to know? Keep the comforts close at hand, so when it feels like life is getting out of control, you remember: there’s always tomorrow.

Count your blessings. Life is good.

Yeah, I realize that this post has more clichés per capita than a basket full of fortune cookies, 😊 but this is the gospel truth: God’s got your back.

Ride it out, and next thing you know, the sun is back up again. And lo and behold! All is well.

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